Howell Binkley, a Winston-Salem native who won two Tony awards for his Broadway lighting designs, died Friday after a three-year battle with lung cancer. He was 64.
Joyce Storey, Binkley's wife, posted the news about her husband's death on Facebook. Binkley died at Onslow Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, N.C., Storey said in a phone interview from their home on Emerald Isle.
"He was just a special spirit," Storey said of her husband. "He was adored by so many, and will be missed by all."
In 2016, Binkley won a Tony award for his lighting design of the musical, "Hamilton." In 2006, he won a Tony award for his lighting design of the musical, "Jersey Boys."
"(Binkley) was a painter of light," said Storey, a writer and actress. "He was an extraordinary talent."
Binkley also is the recipient of the 2018 Olivier award for best lighting design of a musical "Hamilton," according to Broadway World, an online publication.
During his career, Binkley was nominated for 10 Tony awards for his lighting designs, Storey said.
Storey will remember her husband's positive outlook on life, she said.
"He had a smile for everybody," Storey said. "He was a really, really positive force in the world."
In 1993, Binkley was nominated for a Tony award for his lighting design on the Broadway show, "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Binkley didn't win the Tony award. He did win an Olivier award for best lighting design in the London production of "Kiss of the Spider Woman," Storey said.
Binkley was among the first white students who integrated Atkins High School in Winston-Salem, said Phyllis Dunning, Binkley's 10th grade teacher at Atkins High. Binkley developed his love for the theater as a high-school student, Dunning said.
He worked at the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem. Binkley graduated from Reynolds High School in 1974, where he was the Demon mascot.
Attending Reynolds High put Binkley in close proximity to its large and lavish auditorium, the site of concerts by the Winston-Salem Symphony and numerous traveling shows, the Winston-Salem Journal reported in February 2012.
He started working in New York in 1978 after he attended East Carolina University. During his career, Binkley also was a guest artist who taught and spoke to students at the UNC School of the Arts.
During his visit to UNCSA eight years ago, Binkley told students how he became the kid hired to do much of the work behind the scenes. He fulfilled his wish of becoming a "roadie" tech as Binkley toured with organizations such as John Houseman's The Acting Company and the Parsons Dance, a company Brinkley and David Parsons founded in 1987.
"He was an exceptional creative lighting designer," Dunning said. "He was an exceptional human being. Fans know Howell Binkley and his work."
Dunning, 85, said that Binkley's career and his accomplishments don't surprise her.
"He was a bright light in this world," said Dunning, who worked as a teacher in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools for 35 years.
During his career, Binkley became fascinated by lighting and gradually learned to do it, according to the Journal's story in 2012. He developed his lighting style through his work on dance performances.
"You are sculpting the body from all sides in order to give definition to the body as it turns, as it's lifted, as it rolls on the ground," Binkley said in the Journal interview. "I try in my lighting of plays and musicals to use that same carving tool."
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